Advance Directives

The documents used in advance care planning are called “advance directives.” They fall into two categories:

  1. those that provide instructions regarding medical care and
  2. those that designate someone, known as a “proxy” or “surrogate,” who is empowered to make decisions for the person who is ill.

The health care surrogate instruments deal with health decisions. A Durable Power of Attorney expands decision-making power to other areas. States have differing laws governing advance directives and forms that are recognized within that state.


Living Will: An advance directive in which an individual documents his or her wishes about medical treatment should he or she be at the end of life and unable to communicate. The purpose of a living will is to provide guidance to family members and physicians in deciding how aggressively to use medical treatments to delay death.

Designation of Health Care Surrogate (sometimes called medical power of attorney, health care proxy or health care agent): A document that allows an individual to appoint someone else to make decisions about his or her medical care if he or she is unable to communicate. Not all conditions are covered in the Living Will so the designation of a health care surrogate is vital.

It is recommended that the individual complete both of these documents to ensure that the desired medical care is given when the person can no longer speak for himself or herself.

Durable Power of Attorney is a document that delegates the authority to make health, financial and/or legal decisions on a person’s behalf. It goes into effect when a person is unable to make his/her own decisions. If the intent is to designate the person to make health care decisions, it must be specifically stated in writing and must show the person’s intent to give specified power if the person is incapacitated. Forms can be purchased at office supply stores and must include the durable provision. The signatures must be notarized. Here is a list of links for more specific information about the forms and the filing process in Idaho and surrounding states. Visit these sites for helpful tools in Advance Directive planning.

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